By the time that Clark returned to the school, the hazard was gone. People were slowly filtering out of the school, making it difficult for him to get in or find Chloe in the shifting masses. A light breeze blew a faint scent of the corsage he had given her. Chloe. Spinning around, he saw her taillights as they turned the corner. "Fuck!"
Forcing himself to stay at a jog, he followed. A glance up at the sky revealed a night full of stars turning to morning... as if the storm hadn't happened; yet all around him lay the debris as evidence of the destruction. People wandered the streets, attempting to make repairs and retrieve items that had been knocked free of their posts, fences, or front doors. People just looking, in awe, at what the storm destroyed and what the storm spared.
The car was idling when he finally made it to her house. From what he could tell, she had been sitting there awhile... crying? Suddenly, she sat up and started beating on the steering wheel before collapsing against it in more tears. Slowly, he approached the car and tapped on the window. Her head shot up and she wiped at the tears before she opened the door. "Go away."
She pushed past him, her pink dress swishing with her brisk movement. Clark tried to follow her but she turned and punched him in the chest. "Go away." He tried to take another step forward but she would not have it. "No! You don't get to be here now, Clark. Just leave me alone."
"Chloe." He tried to plead with her but she punched him again.
"How could you leave?" She cried. Emotions flooded her mind and body but her mind had taken its leave the second she realized that he had gone. Her fists pounded on his chest as she sobbed, tearing the corsage to bits with the rapid movements and jarring strikes. "You promised me." Finally, she collapsed in sobs against him but shook him off when he went to put his arms around her. "Just leave." She took a good look at him before turning around to enter the house. "You're right. I won't ever forget tonight."
Clark stayed put for a long time after her bedroom light shut off. It was a long slow walk home when he finally mustered the energy to leave. It was daylight by the time he reached the farm. The full light of day showed the entirety of the night's storm. The mess that found him at home made his day so much worse.
Chloe woke up late the following afternoon feeling worse than when she finally went to sleep. Her room seemed so alien. The girl who lived in that room had been a much happier and hopeful girl. The one that currently lay in its bed was so full of pain and so jaded that she might as well have been a stranger. When she stumbled downstairs, her father was holding the door open and there stood Clark Kent with a cup of coffee in hand. "Oh. There she is. Chloe, Clark's here."
Clark held up the cup of coffee as a peace offering and seemed relieved when she took it, and less than relieved when she dumped it down the back of his shirt.
"Chloe Sullivan!" Gabe exclaimed and rushed to get the boy a towel.
"Why'd you do that?" Clark shifted uncomfortably. The hot coffee hadn't burned him but the wet clothes weren't any easier to bear.
"Because I couldn't reach your head." Chloe shut the door and made her way back up the stairs. By the time she reached her room, she could hear her father apologizing profusely to the wet boy. It figured that even her father had been taken in by Clark's wholesome exterior. Only Clark's friends knew how he could really be.
"Chloe! Telephone." Gabe called up and Chloe sighed but picked up the upstairs receiver. The telephone was the last thing she wanted to be talking on. Three guesses who was on the other side of the line. "Hello?"
"Chloe, thank god. I've been try-" Click. The numb feeling in her chest had spread. Her brain had shut off sometime that afternoon and she didn't plan on using it on anything besides gathering information on the storm.
The phone rang with her finger still on the button. Hesitantly, she pressed the button just knowing that she had to keep him from hurting her again and again. "Stop calling me, Clark."
"Wow. That was icy but I'm glad to say that I'm not Clark if that will keep you from hanging up on me like I'm sure you were about to do."
"Lex. Sorry." Chloe let out a breath and shut her eyes.
"Is your father around? I'd like to talk to him. Good news about the plant."
"Pete, she won't talk to me." Clark peeled off his shirt and handed it to Pete's dad. "Thanks, Mr. Ross."
"No problem." Pete's dad walked away shaking his head as he headed down to the laundry room with Clark's shirts and jacket.
"What is this all about?" Pete rubbed at his eyes and leaned forward on the kitchen counter to listen better. His night had not gone as planned but hopefully his date would be up for a make-up date another time. "And where did you go? She was really upset when you took off but she wouldn't say why."
"First off, she's mad that I left. I was worried about Lana. The storm was on the west side and that's where she was." Clark watched as Pete shook his head sadly. "Look. I promised Whitney that I would look after her and that's what I was doing. I had to stay put until it was clear enough for me to take her to the hospital." He lied but was relieved when the look on Pete's face changed. What took so long was getting out of the storm with Lana once he had her.
"Is she okay?"
"Concussion. She doesn't remember what happened. The truck had gone off the road and she hit her head. She got out but Whitney's truck died by tornado. They found it near the plant, completely totaled." He closed his eyes. "I got back to the school just when she was leaving. She is really pissed."
"Hence the coffee-stained clothes." Pete nodded. "She's not going to forgive you enough to let you explain."
"I know and... god..." Clark slumped against the counter.
"You're really gone, arenąt you?"
"Gone?" Brow furrowed over confused blue eyes.
"And another one bites the dust." Pete shook his head. "It's about time, man. About time."
Clark sat in his loft so deep in thought that he didn't hear the footsteps. Suddenly, a black shirt filled his view. He blinked a few times but his vision didn't clear. "I know I'm sexy, Clark, but you're beginning to worry me."
His eyes snapped up to see Lex's smirking face. "Hey Lex..." Then took in the all black ensemble... and the bandage on his head, along with the bulk on one arm. "Hey." Clark got to his feet. "Sorry about your dad." Noticed the suddenly stiff posture. "Are you doing all right?"
"Yeah, you know me. I'm my father's son... business never stops." Lex swallowed the lump in his throat. He felt suddenly dirty and unworthy in the presence of his personal hero. "I hear there's a bounty on your head. Lifetime of servitude for any man or woman who can deliver Clark Kent's head on a silver platter to one Chloe Sullivan." Nodded when Clark sank back into the couch. "I see. What did you do?"
"I left her at the prom."
"To save Lana from being sucked into a tornado." He had to lie. The lies were starting to eat him alive and he needed to put a stop to it... unfortunately what he needed wasn't an option.
"From anyone else, I'd want proof but I just spoke to Nell Potter in town. Lana took a nasty hit to the head and Mr. Fordman's truck died a nasty death." Lex moved around to look out the window. The air was getting hard to breathe.
"I... kinda promised her that I wouldn't leave her and that's kinda what I did." Clark admitted. "She's not talking to me or anyone associating with me."
"Yeah, I noticed." Lex turned slightly. "So a lot of... really horrible things happened last night."
"Yeah. Lana's in the hospital, your dad... I heard that reporter from the Inquisitor is missing." Clark cleared his throat.
"I'm sure he'll turn up. Rodents like him don't die." Lex tried to shove his hands into his pockets but the one arm was still too sore to complete the task. The way he turned made the bandage on his head stand out. At least Clark hadn't tried to apologize for not being there to save him from getting hurt or to save his father. There was little chance that he could handle that scene very smoothly. "On the bright side, the closure of LuthorCorp number three has been halted pending a full analysis of finances. I've assured the board that the numbers can only increase and it would be in everyone's best interest to keep the plant."
"Wow. The town will need the Plant... especially with all the repairs the town is going to need." Clark looked up at his friend. "What's the damage to the house?"
"One section of the east wall and the ceiling of my office." Lex winced at Clark's hesitation.
"Is that where?" Clark accepted Lex's sudden turn to the telescope as his answer. "I'm sorry, Lex."
"I was unconscious when it happened. By the time I came to, it was too late. He was gone"
"You know it's not your fault, right. Lex?" Clark rose to his feet and tried to give some comfort to his friend.
"Yeah. I realize that." Lex felt the walls closing in on him and his father's accusatory ghost breathing down his neck. "I have to go. They're expecting me down at the Savings and Loan. Dad had just bought their contract. I need to make some reassurances but I can't even find the paperwork."
"It's okay. I'll catch you later." Clark nodded.
"Good luck with Chloe. I'm sure she'll come around. I doubt there's a female in the county that could resist you." Lex tried not to race from the loft but he thought maybe he still moved a little too fast to be considered casual.
Chloe hesitated at the doorway to Lana's hospital room. It was already dark out and she should head home but she had to follow through with her interviews. Lana had been near the tornados when they had merged into the huge cyclone that ate the west side of town.
"Chloe? That you?"
"Hi." Chloe stepped into the room and took in all the equipment. "Bet you didn't think you'd be back here so soon."
"I know. I'm glad you're here. I'm still being observed. They're not really letting me sleep much. I'm supposed to be resting but every single time I shut my eyes some nurse comes in to check my vitals and my IV." Lana managed a weak smile. "It's enough to make me want to scream."
"I know the feeling." Chloe fiddled with a flower from a bouquet. "So what happened out there? I mean, Whitney's truck was found miles away."
"I don't know. I remember hiding in the truck and my phone wouldn't work but then I'm waking up in Clark's arms when we got here. Then I pretty much passed out again." Lana adjusted her posture against the pillow. She was kind of sore all over but surviving.
"So... Did Clark say anything to you?"
"I don't think so." She ran everything that she could remember through her mind and she didn't remember him saying much beyond making sure she was okay. "Nope. So, how horrible was the Formal?"
"Pretty horrible. We were dancing when they announced that there was a warning and the funnels were on the other side of town about to touch down." Chloe cleared her throat and turned away to fiddle with some more flowers.
"So..." Lana wheedled. "Did he do it?"
"Who do what?" Chloe asked absently.
"Clark, he said he was going to set a pretty romantic scene. With a certain somebody's favorite song and a kiss, maybe." Lana teased. "So... I want details."
"I have to go." Chloe moved to the door.
"Chloe, wait." Lana called out and the blonde paused in her exit. "What happened?"
"Let's just say that I never got that kiss." Chloe bit out before shutting the door on a very confused Lana Lang.
Chloe punched each key hard as she made adjustments to the Torch. Pete was becoming increasingly annoying with every passing moment. "Can you just... shut up?"
"That an order, Chief?" Pete paused in his typing to look at her. He was striking a cord and he knew it.
"I don't want to speak to Clark, ever again."
"Because he such a horrible guy." Pete nodded and resumed his typing. He couldn't believe she had dragged him in so early on a Monday for an emergency issue of the Torch. "He should be shot."
"Exactly." Chloe breathed and punched a few more keys. "Hurry. He'll work the press at noon so we can get the paper tonight."
"I should hate Clark too. He left you all alone at the dance. He's an outright villain." Even out the tone and she should react in three, two, one...
"He promised, Pete. I told you. He promised and he left."
"I thought he promised you a night you wouldn't forget. I don't believe he promised that he wouldnąt leave." Just a little more and five, four, three...
Chloe took a breath and stopped working. "What are you getting at?"
"Nothing." Pete shook his head. "Clark's scum. He should be mulched into fertilizer for his own organic produce." Turned in his chair slightly. "I mean, really, I'd much rather have you happy and go to a funeral tomorrow than have both you and Lana alive and safe." His eyes shot over to his friend to find her pale and sitting stock still in front of her monitor. Bingo.
Chloe paced as her template saved. The dark head at the door was the first thing she saw. Averting her eyes, she quickened her step. A cup of coffee slid toward her computer and the hand rested near it. "Forgive me for being untrusting but I'd rather not wear this cup." She didn't stop pacing, even after the save was completed. "I came back as soon as everything was okay. I was looking for you in the crowds when you were getting to your car."
"You left me, Clark." Stopped pacing and turned to look at him. "You left me there."
"I'm sorry." He bowed his head.
"You have this whole savior complex and I don't understand why you feel you have to be the one to go around saving everyone. You aren't God. You don't get to decide." Chloe felt all the steam flow out of her. "I'm glad Lana's alright."
"I was the only one who knew where she was." Clark hated doing this but it had to be done. He couldn't go back on all the lies he had already told about what happened out there. "If I had not gone, Lana would have been in that truck when the tornado picked it up. If you can stop it, you should... don't you think?"
"Yeah. I guess." Chloe sighed heavily. "Pete already gave me the guilt trip."
"I'm not guilting you. I'm just trying to apologize. I just don't want to lose you, Chloe. These past couple of days have been horrible." Clark handed her the coffee and leaned against the desk. "Will you come over? Talk? Tonight?"
Chloe climbed the steps to the loft to find it light up with a string of small Christmas lights. Clark stood beside the loft hatch door looking outside, all dressed up. "Did I miss the memo? I didn't realize this was a formal affair."
"It's okay. You look great." Clark answered as soon as he turned to look at her. Just smiled at the glare she shot him. "You're probably wondering what all this is?"
"We didn't get to finish our dance." He stated simply and held out his arms.
"Is this supposed to make it better, Clark?" Chloe couldn't help but snap at him with last vestige of control she had left. If he turned that 100-watt smile on her, she'd be gone.
"Probably not but I did promise you a night you'd never forget and I had intended that to be a pleasant experience." Waited for some kind of response and had to wait two full minutes before she walked over to the stereo and snapped it on. "Is that a yes?"
"You have to ask the question first, farm boy." She turned up the volume a little and shrugged off her jacket. Lifted an eyebrow when he wiped his palms on his slacks.
"May I have this dance?" Slowly, she came into his arms. Couldn't help but wince when she was hesitant to touch him. The inch of space between their bodies may as well have been a brick wall for all the warmth either got out of the embrace. Every muscle tensed and waiting for something. It was nearly two songs later and some relaxation on both their parts before Clark had made up his mind. "Chloe... what is it that I do that makes you the angriest?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Why do you get so mad at me? What is it that I do?"
Mulled it over and decided that honesty was the best policy. "You're not as great a liar as you think you are."
"What? I don't... lie." Clark threw his eyes to the rafters.
"Point in case. I'm not a moron, Clark. You lie constantly, to everyone and I'm never sure what that's about. You do it all the time, which makes me wonder why you haven't gotten any better at it. You disappear suddenly and reappear acting like nothing happened. You always do it when my story breaks and then there's nothing left to follow." They stopped moving for a moment and then started up again, slightly off rhythm.
"I never thought you were a moron." Clark spoke simply.
"What really happened when you left? Consider your words and mannerisms carefully, Clark. If you lie to me again, I'll leave and I'll never speak to you again." Chloe waited with baited breath, suddenly wishing she weren't in the circle of his arms.
"I can't tell you and I don't want to lie to you again."
"There, some honesty." She nodded to herself and lowered her eyes to the blue and red shirt at her own eye level. "Why can't you tell me?"
"Please, Chloe. I can't."
"Can't or won't?" Her eyes shot up to pin his. They stood absolutely still. "I know when people lie to me. I know that you aren't telling me something. I know that Lex lied to us when he explained about how he saved the plant. I know that... Lana didn't lie to me when she said she didn't remember what happened to her. I don't believe that you are unable to tell me the truth."
Thoughts ran rampant through his mind. Could he tell her the truth? How would she react? Would she ever want to speak to him again? Would she look at him the same way? A shadow crossed his mind when he thought about how she defended Justin despite all the wrong he'd done. She would either accept him and his abilities or completely freak out. He didn't have enough hope for any middle ground. Finally, he looked down into her face. "Can I do one thing first?"
"What's that?" Before Chloe could protest, his lips were on hers. She soon found herself clinging to him in hopes he could provide support that her own legs could not. When his mouth pulled away from hers, it was all she could do to keep herself from drawing those lips back to hers. "Clark?"
"I didn't want to have never done that."
"Why?" Chloe quickly sobered when she tuned into his serious tone. She backed away and sat on the couch to wait for him to explain.
"It's like how I was able to find you in that field, why I disappear and reappear like you said..." Clark told her everything.
Chloe sat there dumbfounded for all of twenty seconds. "I knew it was something but this wasn't that something." She couldn't stop herself from rising from the couch and reaching for him, touching his arm and hand as those she had never done it before. "You function like us?"
"Just with superpowers?"
"There was no handbook to raising an alien kid. My parents pretty much winged it. We all learned as we went." Clark cleared his throat. "Are you afraid of me?"
"Clark Kent? Scary? Nah." Chloe managed a small smile. "Alien. It's like it refuses to click in my head even though I have all the pieces now."
"What are you going to do now?"
"Kiss my boyfriend."
"Wh" He didn't get a chance to finish his question before her lips were attached to his.